MARCH 2010

Monday -- March 1, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.0     Water Temperature: 41

Well that was a disgusting job. It isn't much fun bailing out an old canoe after the dirty flood water, slime and rotting leaves have been sitting in it for a month. The water in those swamped canoes finally returned to its liquid state and I was able to bail the boats and move them. It was a big job yanking all these boats out from the bottom rack of the canoe shed but I'm glad to get it done. I think I'll wait until all the snow pack is gone before I put them back.

I saw bluebirds today, five of them, and an eagle at the nest.

Here is a web site that tells you how much snow is in our watershed. Its a little scary.®ion=Eastern_Coastal

Thursday -- March 4, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.3     Water Temperature: 41

The river is above five feet and it looks like it will be this way for a while. I've almost forgotten what the bell sounds like, not good. This will be yet another Saturday when there won't be a need for a relief caretaker. I've lost track of when the club was last open on a Saturday but I think it was almost two months ago!

Friday -- March 5, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 41

Ferry is still closed.

I saw the three does here again this morning. I can't figure out if they come and go at night or if they are really good at hiding themselves during the midday. I only see them in the early morning.

The geese were making a ruckus this morning, fighting over nesting ground. And right now, I can here the sound of the mourning dove outside my window, beginning its mating call. Ah, the signs and sounds of spring are coming up everywhere.

Sunday -- March 7, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 41

I try to make it as clear as possible and let everyone know that the ferry is closed but inevitably, someone will come down and ring the bell. I posted a message on the web site and I left a recording on the answering machine but it doesn't seem to matter, they still come down and ring the bell. They will read the sign at the landing saying "HIGH WATER FERRY CLOSED" and they will still ring the bell. Then they ring it again, and again?

Here is the website to check the river level. If it reads five feet or above, the ferry is closed.

If any of you have ever tried to pull the ferry across th eriver in five feet of water, with a steady wind coming down river, you would understand why we have to cut off ferry service.

I just saw my first bluebells of the season peeking through the soft ground!

Saturday -- March 13, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 8.0     Water Temperature: 50

Well it looks like we're going to get a real spring flood this year. In the eight winters that I've been here there really hasn't been a lot of snow pack in the mountains to worry about, but not this year. I was shocked yesterday when I saw that the river at little falls was going to be at 15 feet by Monday! This could be the biggest flood we've had since I moved here!

I want to thank everyone that came out yesterday for the emergency flood prep. I was very, very impressed with the number of people that came out in the rain and high water to help me get ready, and on such short notice too. The people of this club are awesome. They took every boat out of the canoe shed, tied everything down and even helped me move my bedroom furniture up to the upper level! We all met at 3:00 but it was 7:00 by the time the ferry rope was down and I was back in my quarters.

Evacuate? This is one of those rare times when it looks like I will have to abandon ship and leave the Island until things calm down. The girls and I evacuated once before, back when hurricane Isabell hit, but usually I try to stay put during high water and ride it out.

Sunday -- March 14, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 12.0     Water Temperature: 50

I went down to lock House 6 to help with the sandbagging. The Park Service delivered eight pallets of sandbags and the C&O canal Trust organized a bunch of us, mostly canal trust volunteers and residents of Brookmont to stack them around the historic building. I had never done sandbagging before and I found it rather fun. We laid sandbags all around the lockhouse, but it might have been unnecessary since we have now heard that the forecast has changed and the river is supposed to crest at 12.9 instead of the dreaded 15.9.

I'm able to relax a little now. I'm pretty confident that my quarters won't be flooded. I'm not going to start moving the beds back downs stairs just yet, but I've decided that I probably don't need to evacuate. The towpath is at around 14 feet so as long as there is a towpath I'm confident that I can get out, no problem. I went off-Island this morning to check on Lockhouse 8 but since I'm home now I think I'll stay safely at home. The river seems to be rising faster now.

I'm glad I was on the Island while the waters were rising, there were some boats that needed rescue. I had to paddle down the middle of the canoe shed and free the boats that were stuck under the rafters.

Bad news, my phone and internet just went dead. I'm not really surprised. We tried to raise to cable as high as we could on Friday but it just wasn't enough to prevent the flood waters from taking it out. This is a serious hassle since it means we'll have to restring the cable across the river. The same is also true for the electric cable that feeds the lights on the trail. It was too low to be safe from the flood waters and will have to be restrung as well. What a pain.

Monday -- March 15, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 13.5     Water Temperature: 50

I had every intention of getting of the Island this morning and going to my part time job at NIH. I assumed that the towpath would be there and I would be able to paddle over. But when I looked out across the river into the gloom, something wasn't right. I couldn't tell at first what I was looking at but then I realized what I was seeing. I reached for my binoculars, just to confirm but it looked like the towpath was already under water. What was strange was that the level of the river was lower than the level of the canal and the water was cascading down our landing steps, from the canal into river. It did not take me long to decide that I really didn't want to tangle with this river today. I probably could have made it across and it probably wasn't that deep on the towpath but why risk it? It was funny, soon after I called in "sick" to work, I saw a bicyclist peddle through the six-inch-deep water on the towpath, people are amazing creatures.

Speaking of creatures, being home all day gave me a chance to observe quite a few of them. There may not be anyone else here but I am certainly not alone here on the Island, in fact, I am sharing my house with a ground hog. These burrowing animals seem to appear and disappear like rabbits in a hat! Once again there seems to be a young marmot living under my floor!

I also saw a few of our summer resident song birds returning to nest. I saw a brown creeper, a phoebe and a yellow-rumped warbler. The canada geese, of course, have turned into total terrors now that nesting season has started. During this time of year there are some parts of the island that you just can't go to without being attacked by vicious geese. I haven't seen the my island deer lately, they must have sensed the flood and headed for higher ground.

Tuesday -- March 16, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 12.5     Water Temperature: 50

The river is receding and our Island is reemerging from its muddy waters like a resurrected Atlantis. After inspecting the Island, I'm happy to report that we fared pretty well with only minimal damage to the club. My phone line was taken out of course, but we didn't lose any boats or docks and the ferry is still there. The picnic tables are piled on top of one another but intact. We did lose the martin house that was by the swim float but I don't think we ever had any martins nesting in there anyway. It was really great to have that time on Friday to get the Island ready. There was some major erosion on the towpath berm and our steps were undercut by the water as well.

Wednesday -- March 17, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 10.0     Water Temperature: 50

What is going to be the challenge of the day? Yesterday it was a challenge just to come and go from the Island. Today I think the challenge will be removing all the mud from the boardwalk and ferry landings.

There is an amazing amount of mud and silt piled up on the boardwalk. The flood waters have changed the topography of the island and there is now a big sandbar laid across the walkway. Most of the mud is only a few inches deep but this sandbar is over six inches deep! Moving all that mud is going to be like shoveling snow all over again.

Thursday -- March 18, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 8.0     Water Temperature: 50

The challenge for today was to get ready for the phone-repair man. Getting the heavy phone line across the river is not going to be easy and I want to be ready when they get here. I decided that it would be easier to carry a rope across the river first and use that to pull the phone line across. The bell rope should be long enough so I untied it from the railing and put it in a canoe. I tied one end to a tree and then paddled like hell toward the utility pole on the opposite shore. What makes this operation difficult is that once the rope gets in the water the current starts to pull it down river. You have to hurry across or the rope will be pulled down river before you can tie-off on the other side. It looked like I was going to make it and I was just inches from grabbing a sturdy tree on the mainland when the rope ran out. Suddenly, the current pulled the rope attached to the back of my canoe and I started to go backwards down stream. I quickly dug in my paddle and desperately tried to fight the force of the river. My muscles ached and the sweat was running down my face but I managed to get close enough to that tree to drop my paddle and wrap my arms around it. Now what? I was standing in a canoe that was being tugged from underneath me as I was bear-hugging a tree. I used my leg to hold me to the tree while I reached for the rope at the other end of the canoe. I thought of giving up and cutting the rope and freeing myself from this quandary but I thought that if I could only get the rope around the tree I would be alright. I was really working now, using all my strength to hold on to that tree and pull in the rope at the same time. Somehow, I was able to get the rope around the tree, but then I realized, I'm an idiot. I had my line passing under the back seat of the canoem and I had myself stuck. I would have to untie from the tree and get untangled from the canoe. Ugh, I again considered giving up and cutting the line but decided to give it one more try. I tied off the canoe and untied the rope. I fished it through the canoe seat and was able to pull enough slack to get it around the tree again. I scrambled up the high bank and onto the shore. I was now covered in mud and getting strange looks from the people on the tow path, but I was standing on the mainland and I was in great shape to pull my rope out of the river. Now all we had to do was to tie the phone cable to this line and I would be able to pull it over to the Island, no problem. Next time I think I will try to be less spontaneous and plan to have someone here to help me.

Friday -- March 19, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.5     Water Temperature: 50

The repair man from Verizon showed up today. He called me in the morning with the typical question, "where is your house?" After walking him down the path and showing him the problem, he was overwhelmed and quickly decided to come back on Monday with more help. I can't say that I'm surprised or that I blame him for bailing out, but it means I'll have no phone or email for another four days.

Tuesday -- March 23, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 50

I had high hopes that Verizon would show up yesterday but with all that rain I guess they had a good excuse to cancel on me. They promised they would be here today.

I awoke this morning to the sound of a groundhog digging and scurrying around under my bedroom floor.

I spent the weekend painting. There were still some areas inside my house that never got painted during the construction. We had all the furniture moved out for the flood so it was a perfect time to get the painting completed. It looks so much better now that it's painted.

I biked up to Lochkhouse 8 to see how it fared during the flood. There was a little water in the cellar but it was high and dry during the worst of the flood. I did see where the river came over its banks and inundated the canal. Just below Lock 8 the canal dips low and it was obvious where the river poured over the canal berm. There was much erosion on the berm and sadly it looks like the gates to the lock were damaged too. One of the giant arms that is used to open the lock was gone.

That pesky lesser celandine is sprouting on the island again. I'm so afraid that this stuff is going to take over the island and choke out our bluebells. If you have ever walked along Rock Creek near Candy Cane City you know how this plant can take over a forest floor. I spent some time eradicating.

Wednesday -- March 24, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 52

Ferry is closed.

Thursday -- March 25, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 52

The last time anyone signed the sheet on the ferry, aside from March 12 for the flood prep, was January 25. Thats two months since the ferry has been operating on a regular basis! That's one sixth of the year! And guess what, the river is predicted to go up to 6.5 on Sunday, so the ferry will be closed again this weekend.

We were going to plan a clean-up day on the island to put things back in order after the flood but so far we haven't had a good opportunity to do so. Much of this big clean-up work may have to wait until we do the official spring workfest.

I forgot to mention that the flood waters lifted and moved the auxiliary canoe rack that we had constructed out of old telephone poles. This rack was located on the down-river side of the canoe shed and held about eight boats. It is now in pieces and washed up against a tree near the old tree house.

The flood did a lot of earth moving too. There are deep cuts in the upriver side of the Island and some past buried berms were exposed. on the down river side, near the newer tree house, there seems to be a new layer of silt and sand that is 6 to 12 inches deep.

Friday -- March 26, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 52

Tryon sent out an email to all the club members this afternoon. We are asking everyone to please come down and help with getting our fleet back into its drydock. I will be here coordinating the effort. I want to get all the canoes and kayaks back on their respective racks so that the feilds will be free for the bluebells to sprout forth their splendor. Right now our island looks like a giant canoe parking lot.

Obviously I've got my phone and DSL connection back. Verizon was out here on Tuesday morning and with my help they got the line across the river and reconnected. As it turns out, the technician that was here to fix the line has worked here on Sycamore Island before, way back when we called it C & P telephone. It was great having a tech that had so much experience and wasn't afraid of the challenges that our island presents. Sadly he'll be retiring soon.